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The Importance of Multiplication

Lydia, Ruth, and Esther found their way to my desk and have occupied much of my space over the past month. Through these women, we are given pictures of what it means to live as women of God. Their stories are wrapped in challenge, adversity, and beauty. The details of their homes, journeys, and lives have repeatedly run through my head and filled page after page of my notetaking with situations that may seem confusing and chaotic to us, but are actually small plot threads God weaves together to create a story. Filing away my study notes from “How Today’s Women Can Learn From Women of the Bible,” and returning commentaries and reference books to my shelves this morning signaled the close of the second annual summer seminar. It’s a somber moment. Yet I must say, seeing women dedicate time to spend in the Bible spurs me to continue on, doing those things I do in the name of Christ while building up His church.

Discipleship seminars (whether in my home or by Zoom) have provided opportunities reaching beyond the classroom in my local church. For this year’s seminar I was especially blessed to have an international friend join in. When it works well, technology can be a wonderful thing. An advocate for women to learn, enjoy, and share God’s word, these efforts would easily fall within my life’s mission. Remembering the biblical model of multiplication (2 Tim. 2:2) emboldens me to develop material, techniques, and methods to assist women in furthering their Bible knowledge and application. It’s important to remember that not only does the Great Commission call us to multiply through evangelism, but also through discipleship (“teaching them”). It’s my intentions that these Christian women might, in turn, share what they’ve enjoyed. What steps do you take toward multiplication?

“…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

As Christians, we will all agree that studying the Bible is critical. In this year’s seminar, our focus was on comprehensive biographical study. In that method, I chose to incorporate techniques used in general Bible study to insure proper context. The process of working through a text using proper hermeneutics, when visualized, is like a pyramid. However, our method for studying a particular Bible character resembles a funnel.  And in our study time, we were reminded of the profound impact women have made on the church.

“Biographical study convinces one that Scripture was not given merely to satisfy the intellect, but to enrich one’s own life, to quicken the conscience, correct judgment, reinforce the will and direct the feet. Allowing for differences of time and place, the temptations and possibilities coming to the Bible women meet the daughters of Eve today. Their God is the God of modern women, who have a spiritual armory Bible saints did not possess. Women on this side of the cross and of Pentecost need not know shame and defeat in life. Christianity has supplied women with a full emancipation.” – Zondervan

Through biographical study, we examined the lives of Lydia, Ruth, and Esther. Each of these stories, regardless of their placement in history, helps us see the scope and beauty of God’s redemptive plan that culminated in Christ’s coming. His very own attributes emerged in each of these stories, aspects of his nature on which our salvation depends. We see the Gospel not only as a personal, individual matter but also as God creating a people from all peoples of the world.

Lydia (Acts 16) was a new believer who immediately bonded with other believers in Christ. She showed hospitality to those who brought the good news. Lydia’s hospitality to Paul and his missionary team was one evidence of her faith. She quickly used her spiritual gift as a means of serving the church. What spiritual gift is most evident in your life? For what purposes are you using your gift? How might God be able to use you in your local church?

Ruth is a reminder to us that God is concerned about the day-to-day struggles of ordinary people just as much as He is with those who are part of big-picture events. He works through everyday circumstances and faithfully provides for ordinary women, such as what He did for Naomi and Ruth. God cares about your struggles and difficulties today just as much as he cared about theirs. Where do you see God’s hand in all aspects of your life? Do your actions mirror His love?

Esther was an orphan girl who became queen. We see what could’ve been a major move to wipe out the whole Jewish race, but God made plans in advance to save the nation from extinction. You and I plan for vacations, projects, and a whole host of other things. Are you willing to alter your own plans in order to participate in God’s own work?

At the end of the day, what matters is that God has promised He will hold fast to us. This is our hope. In each of the women’s lives we studied, we see that God always finishes his work. This can be seen as a reality in our own lives.

In closing, I must give all credit to our God, who is good to allow me to join Him in what He is doing in the lives of women. I am humbled and grateful our God would choose to use me to participate in His work. May he multiply my efforts through the women I have had the opportunity to influence.

Uncategorized

Living Out Our Confession

For the Christian, living in a fallen world sometimes means our conduct contradicts our confession. What does living out our confession look like? Does our discipleship match up to Jesus’ criteria of obedience and personal relationship? To sum up Matthew 7:21-23, repentance and faith can be distinguished but cannot be separated. Authentic repentance is a repentance that trusts in Christ. Saving faith is a repentant faith (turning from sin to Christ). Following our repentance and profession of faith, our sin should cause us to grieve, asking for forgiveness from God and others, as we strive to follow our Savior daily.

Matthew 4:17; James 5:16; Mark 7:15

Christians fundamentally understand human problems. Scripture repeatedly provides examples of God’s people whose conduct was inconsistent with what they believed. Described in 1 Samuel as a man after God’s heart, David’s actions are no different. Peter was confronted for his contradictory behaviors. Although he knew truth, his conduct was inconsistent. We can be assured our position in Christ has been secured (justification) but we are continually walking out our salvation.

1 Samuel 13:14; Galatians 2:12-21; Philippians 2:12

Formal Christian confessions have ancient roots. The Bible reiterates the importance of confessing the truth about the Trinity and specifically Jesus Christ. Whether formal or informal, confession must state faith in the God accurately described in the Scriptures. Important to note is that knowledge alone will not transform the heart.

As we struggle with sin, we must go to scripture as a means to knowing God and to being known or searched by him and his word (Hebrews 4:12) – The very word of God is transformational. Bible study coupled with the theology we know to be true must shape the way that we live; pleading before God to be changed by what we read, else we will remain in our sin.

The only way we can know Jesus Christ is through the Scriptures, by the illumination of the Spirit. For one who is born again, the way we approach our failures, guilt, and addictions is radically different from one who is not. We stop trying to solely change ourselves and instead turn to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:12

The gift of faith entails the capacity to grasp truth about hope in the work and person of Jesus Christ. And our perseverance is not based on our own strength or determined by us, but on the promise of God himself (carried out by all three persons of the Trinity). What is our confession of hope? Confession is the profession of what we believe connected to our perseverance in the Christian life. Holding fast to our confession of hope requires we know why we believe, what we believe and Who we believe. The anchor of the Christian’s conviction is the absolute trustworthiness of God’s word. God pursues his people and sustains us “by the word of his power.”

Hebrews 10:22-25; Hebrews 1:1-3

Thankfully, Christian perseverance isn’t a battle we fight alone. Our ability to hold fast is grounded in the Father’s great love. Jesus Christ, the perfecter of our faith, intercedes for us at the very right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). Because Jesus is Lord in his person and his work, we can have full assurance of our hope until the end. May we hold fast to the hope set before us while living out our confession.

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” – Hebrews 6:17-18 

 

Discernment, Theology, Uncategorized

The Means by Which God Speaks to His Church

The canon of Scripture was not an after the fact development, but something woven deep into the fabric of God’s redemptive plan. Since the close of the canon in the first century, the Word of God alone is the means by which God speaks to his church.

Previously, He spoke to His people in various ways – In Old Testament times, He spoke to people directly on occasion, revealed Himself through dreams or particular signs (as with Gideon), revealed Himself through the casting of lots and through theophanies. The primary way God communicated with the people of Israel was through the prophets, beginning with, “Thus says the Lord.” The words of the prophets were set down in writing and became the Word of God. Thus the Old Testament was produced.

“Whatever Scripture says God says.” – B.B. Warfield

In the New Testament, the counterpart to the prophet was the Apostle. Having received a direct call by Christ, the term “apostle” refers to one who is sent or commissioned with authority of the One doing the sending.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” – Matthew 10:40

The prophets and the apostles together form the very foundation of the church. Through both the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament, we were given a written record of special revelation. It has come to us by Christ’s authorized agents of revelation, His emissaries.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” – Ephesians 2:19 – 21

Christianity is based ultimately on knowledge that comes to us from God himself. Holding to that conviction is vitally important for our determination of truth. When we open the pages of Scripture, may we humbly bow before the Lord. God has spoken. As His church, may we learn the Bible, live the Bible, and love the Bible.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

Praise God who humbled himself by using mere mortals to communicate his infallible word. We have the written Word, but we also have the Word incarnate, the One about whom the written Word speaks. The One who embodies the very word of God.

Uncategorized

Is God Doing Nothing in Our Waiting?

All of us face troubles at some time that are out of our control. It’s what you do while you wait on God that shows where you stand in your faith. How many times do we present our requests to God only to take them back and try to work them out ourselves (when it seems like the answer is taking too long)? Is God doing nothing in our waiting? The truth is that the timing of God is always perfect even when it appears that it may be too late. Just because you can’t see what God is doing in your struggle does not mean he is doing nothing. It means his plan is higher than yours and it has a greater outcome. 

The suffering in the life of a believer has a deliberate, divine purpose in bringing you to a greater knowledge of the God you serve. When you suffer through a painful trial, keep in mind that God knows it. He saw your situation long before you were born and He is with you to the end. Abraham’s troubled world presented stark similarities to ours today: death, doubt, and desire. 

God granted Isaac as a miracle child to Abraham and Sarah, keeping His promise to them. Esau and Jacob were an answer to prayer. A miraculous birth, Samuel was given to Hannah. Samson was given and God used him to judge Israel. Then ultimately, the virgin Mary gave birth to our Savior of this world. The culmination of God’s promises were evidenced in birth.

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:15

God revealed and kept his promises to Abraham and yet, the behavior of his descendants are baffling. Although redeemed for the divine agenda of the world, Isaac mirrored his father’s wrongful actions by taking matters into his own hands. By God’s graciousness, in the end Isaac was transformed. Having become rich in a foreign land, he eventually made it back to the land of promise. In Jacob’s dream, God would confirm his identity as the God of Abraham and Isaac. Having sought betrayal, Jacob would receive the blessing. God’s mercy was revealed in the covenant that was restated again and again. Blessings became connected to God’s redemptive presence. 

“Many reasons for God’s designs are beyond our understanding…Hence in every case we should marvel at his wisdom and praise his ineffable love.” – Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople

An omniscient God is never taken by surprise; God knows his people (both then and now) fail. Although we cannot fathom the depths of God’s love, we see in the generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob an unworthy people reaffirmed as Israel. God continues to rescue his people and ultimately, rescue is displayed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Yahweh is simultaneously the covenant maker and our covenant keeper, as he continues the rescue today. 

As the God-man, Jesus shed his own blood for us and was raised from the dead to free us from the curse of sin. He will live with His people forever. The promise of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the promise God has fulfilled for us in Jesus. Christ is our Emmanuel, God with us.

“…love which stoops and sacrifices and services, love which is kind to the unkind and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving.” – John Stott

God reminds us of his missional promises as He continues to rescue unlikely and unworthy people. He supremely displays grace, coming to meet us as we are, though God be complete and perfect within himself. It’s vital we remember what’s most important about the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection: It’s not the benefits it gets us but rather the gospel giving us God himself. He will be our God and yes, we will be His people, and we will be together enjoying Him forever. You are never without hope if you believe. That is a promise Jesus Christ died to give you. 

Topical Study, Uncategorized

Lament or Complaint? Consider the Difference.

Although “lament” and “complaint” have some things in common, biblically they cannot be mistaken for each other. Time after time, we see God’s dissatisfaction with complaining and grumbling; most evident are the grumbling Israelites in Exodus. Lamenting, however, seems common and acceptable. How can we express ourselves openly and honestly to God without being offensive? Lament or Complaint? Consider the difference.

Complaint reveals belief in a God who is unreliable. His Word clearly distinguishes complaint as a sin and stumbling block (Philippians 2:14). The grumbling Israelites did not have faith that God was good (Exodus 15:22-24; 16:1-3), and their grumbling led them into wandering 40 years in the wilderness. Complaint does not please God, it offends Him.

Far different from faithless grumble, words of lament are the words of one trusting in the God to whom he cries out. An example would be Psalm 22, which begins with cries of anguish but moves on to praises for a God who has worked in the past. The lament shows reliance on the Lord for his provision and protection. Psalm 22 is directed to the God who answers prayers. Lament does not offend God.

Psalm 22:1-21

Psalm 22-31

Psalm 46

Author of Tyndale’s Commentary of the Psalms, Tremper Longman asks the question, “While it’s wonderful that God invites our laments, how often does he answer them?” His answer: “Not all the time—so what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to lament forever? ‘The general teaching of Scripture is that a more mature level of suffering is to move from lament to confidence, just like Psalm 46 does.”

In the words of Michael Card, “It’s easy to praise God when things in your life are going well, but what about the other times? What happens when mountaintop experiences cascade into seasons of struggling in the valley? God expects us to pour out our hearts to Him, whether in joy or pain. But many of us don’t feel right expressing our anger, frustration and sadness in prayer. Our personal worship experience is not complete unless we understand the lost language of lament.”

As Christians, we are a blessed people to have the stories of biblical characters to use as a guide for daily living. From examples of Job to David, we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our Savior has not forsaken us – In the darkest of times, He is often seen the brightest. Yet, we need not pretend all is well when it comes to our personal prayer. Important to note: Complaint talks about God. Lament talks to God.

Have we lost the practice of lamenting in Christian worship? We can praise our God with laughter and tears in all seasons of life! His glory is seen no less.

Biblical Counseling, Reading, Uncategorized

Love and Marriage

The chasm between the biblical vision and society’s view of love and marriage has never been broader. It rings true that previous generations’ view of marriage was never high enough but we have reached a low, casual attitude of both what constitutes marriage and warrants it disposable. What would seem ludicrous in generations past has become the norm. Marriage is fundamentally God’s own design, confirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:8.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:4–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 10:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Love doesn’t come easily and as a counselor, I see women who’ve become tired and frustrated in marriage. It takes intentional work and time to model God’s good design. Much like other relationships, love is best shared when applying biblical principles. It’s shameful that many couples are no longer willing to exercise patience, preferring to simply throw in the towel. David Powlison said it best, “It’s no accident “Love is patient” comes first in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience isn’t very dramatic, but it counts.” 

If we are to be biblical Christians, God will be honored in our relationships. The book titles I refer to time and again are: God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger, Preparing for Marriage by by Boehi, Nelson, and Shadrach (edited by Dennis Rainey), What did you Expect? by Paul Tripp, and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.

Below are words penned by Timothy Keller in his book, The Meaning of Marriage. Whether you are long-time married or merely contemplating marriage, I suggest you read Keller’s book.

“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” 

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” 

“You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.” 

“Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.” 

“What marriage is for: It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be.”